Airports of London

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London's six international airports

The metropolitan area of London, England, United Kingdom is served by six international airports and several smaller airports. Together, they make the busiest airport system in the world by passenger numbers and the second-busiest by aircraft movements.[1] In 2011, the six airports handled a total of 133,709,327 passengers. The London airports handle 60% of all the UK's air traffic. The airports serve a total of 14 domestic destinations and 396 international destinations.

International airports[edit]

International airports in the London airport system (2015)[2]
Airport Code Distance
to London
Passengers[3][4] Percentage
of passengers
from 2011[3][4]
Cargo (Tonnes) Change
from 2010
from 2011
London City LCY 11 km / 7 mi 4,319,301 2.23% Increase0.8%
70,781 Increase2.9%
Heathrow LHR 22 km / 14 mi 74,985,748 51.88% Increase0.9% 1,484,351 Increase1% 475,176 Decrease1.2%
Gatwick LGW 53 km / 33 mi 40,269,087 25.36% Increase1.7% 88,085 Decrease15% 256,987 Decrease1.6%
Luton LTN 46 km / 29 mi 12,263,505 7.12% Increase1.1% 27,905 Decrease3% 96,797 Decrease0.8%
Stansted STN 64 km / 40 mi 22,519,178 12.94% Decrease3.2% 202,593 Increase0% 143,511 Decrease3.2%
Southend SEN 64 km / 40 mi 900,648 0.45% Increase1353.9% 6 Increase100% 27,715 Increase8.8%
Total N/A N/A 150,338.166 100% Increase 1.02% 1,802,939 N/A 1,070,967 Decrease 0.11%

City (LCY)[edit]

Located in the London Borough of Newham, City Airportmap5 is situated in London's Docklands, and is the closest to central London, which limits its size - the airport has a single runway, which is very short. As a result, no large aircraft are permitted to use the airport, which initially prevented all long-haul flights. However, since 2011, British Airways has operated a flight to New York JFK, via Shannon, using an Airbus A318, which is currently the largest aircraft handled at the airport.

Located only four miles from Canary Wharf, London City Airport is often used by business travellers, with many flights serving destinations across the UK and northern Europe. The airport cannot be expanded due to the docks on either side. It is also the only airport serving London which does not operate at night.

Until the extension of the Docklands Light Railway in 2006, City Airport had poor public transport connections to London.

Heathrow (LHR)[edit]

Located in the London Borough of Hillingdon, Heathrowmap1 is by far the largest of London's airports, and considered the international gateway into the United Kingdom. Heathrow has five terminals and two parallel runways. Due to the location in London's western suburbs, Heathrow has been unable to expand (especially since the Cameron ministry scrapped the proposals for a third runway on 12 May 2010[6]), and as a result consistently runs at 99% capacity. This has led to Heathrow being one of the worst rated airports in the world, with lengthy border control queues being a recent problem.[7] The airport is connected to Great Britain's motorway network via the M4 and M25 motorways.

In April 2012, Heathrow announced that for the first time in history it handled 70 million passengers in a calendar year,[8] making it the third busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers, after Atlanta and Beijing. It also comes second behind Dubai International Airport in the list of the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger numbers, as well as the busiest airport in United Kingdom and the busiest in Europe, again, both in terms of passenger numbers.

Heathrow serves six continents around the world, and is the base for the flag carrier British Airways in Terminal 5. While it also serves short-haul flights, Heathrow is London's long distance hub and is the most popular arrival point for flights from the United States of America, with 13 million passengers. However, because it is operating at capacity, Heathrow has failed to increase service cities in the newly industrialised countries, like China, falling behind European bases like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris.

Gatwick (LGW)[edit]

Located in West Sussex, Gatwickmap2 is the second-busiest airport in the London metropolitan region, and is the second-busiest single runway airport in the world. It is currently the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom after Heathrow, and the 10th-busiest in Europe. It is the second base for British Airways, serving Europe and the Caribbean. It is also the base for low-cost carriers like Monarch, easyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Flybe.

The airport consists of two terminals, North and South, is connected to the motorway network via the M23, and has its own railway station, with Gatwick Express serving Victoria station in Central London.

Luton (LTN)[edit]

Located on the Bedfordshire / Hertfordshire border, Luton Airportmap4 is London's fourth-largest airport but the closest to the capital after Heathrow and City airports, it is the fifth-busiest in the United Kingdom, and the 42nd-busiest in Europe. It is the headquarters of the low-cost carriers easyJet, Thomson and Monarch and is a focus airport for other no-frills airlines.

Stansted (STN)[edit]

Located in Essex, Stanstedmap3 is London's third-busiest airport, being the fourth-busiest in the United Kingdom, behind Manchester Airport, 26th-busiest in Europe, and is one of the primary operational bases for Europe's largest low-cost carrier, Ryanair. Stansted destinations are largely in Europe; however, in the past it has served destinations further afield, like Kuala Lumpur. It is the home of Harrods Aviation, allowing VIP aircraft to land there, such as Air Force One carrying the President of the United States, Barack Obama, in 2009 and also 2016.[9]

Southend (SEN)[edit]

Located in Essex, Southend Airportmap6 expanded commercial air transport operations to destinations in Ireland in 2011, and to Europe in 2012 when easyJet commenced operations using the brand new terminal and railway station. Southend claims it only takes 15 minutes to get through arrivals from plane to train with hand luggage. It was once the third-busiest airport in the United Kingdom.

Other civil airports[edit]

Locations of OXF, LHR, LTN, LGW, LCY, STN, SEN and LYX.

A number of other airports also serve the London area.

Open airports[edit]

The following are mainly used by general aviation flights.

Closed airports[edit]

Airports are listed at their current borough, although the area may have been outside London at the time of construction.

Royal Air Force stations[edit]

There were several Royal Air Force stations in London. This list excludes those that are classed as non-flying stations.



Station are listed at their current borough, although the area may have been outside London at the time of construction.

Proposed airports[edit]

Thames Estuary[edit]

Due to London's high capacity, in particular London Heathrow, Boris Johnson, London's former mayor, and Sir Norman Foster have both brought up plans to have a new airport built, either on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary, or on the Isle of Grain in North Kent. Foster's proposed Thames Hub Airport would be very similar to the design of Hong Kong International Airport and Qatar's Hamad International Airport. The plans to have an airport able to handle 110 million passengers a year would require the closure of Heathrow, and probably make the new airport the busiest in the world.

The plans have met with opposition from some people living nearby warning the airport would create a significant increase in bird strikes.[10] Other people and local businesses, recognising the depressed levels of economic activity in North Kent, have been supportive and argue that London needs a new airport in order to be able to compete in the world.

Traffic and Statistics[edit]

Passengers Numbers[edit]

Airports of London Passenger Totals 2004–2014 (millions)
Updated: 28 April 2015.[11]
Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, City, Southend
Graph showing cargo, passengers, and aircraft movements from 1990-2011
Year Aircraft
2001 1,074,773[12] Decrease 1 113,790,381 Decrease 2 1,649,437
2002 954,570[13] Decrease 11.2 117,138,188 Increase 2.9 1,682,693 Increase 2.0
2003 967,270[14] Increase 1.3 120,493,239 Increase 2.9 1,667,803 Decrease 0.9
2004 1,005,256[15] Increase 3.8 128,933,753 Increase 7.0 1,795,326 Increase 7.6
2005 1,038,241[16] Increase 3.2 133,836,827 Increase 3.8 1,788,671 Decrease 0.4
2006 1,060,831[17] Increase 5.4 137,192,958 Increase 2.5 1,717,360 Decrease 4.0
2007 1,087,703[18] Increase 2.5 139,950,593 Increase 2.0 1,724,040 Increase 0.4
2008 1,077,448[19] Decrease 0.9 137,106,041 Decrease 2.0 1,743,028 Increase 1.1
2009 1,003,616[20] Decrease 6.9 130,307,938 Decrease 5.0 1,563,783 Decrease 10.3
2010 954,371[21] Decrease 4.9 127,353,419 Decrease 2.3 1,808,005 Increase 15.6
2011 1,072,126[5] Increase 12.4 133,709,327 Increase 5.0 1,802,939[22] Decrease 0.3
2012 1,060,967[5] Decrease 1.0 134,914,412 Increase 0.9 1,805,761 [23] Increase 0.2
2013 1,067,992[5] Increase 0.7 139,652,261 Increase 3.5 1,760,690 [23] Decrease 2.5
2014 1,098,605[5] Increase 2.9 146,631,158 Increase 5.0 1,819,587 [23] Increase 3.3

Busiest routes[edit]

In total, there were 30 international destinations from London, and another 3 domestic routes, that handled more than 1 million passengers in 2011:

Destination Number of passengers
 Ireland, Dublin 3,705,696
 Netherlands, Amsterdam 3,026,082
 USA, New York JFK 2,700,613
 UAE, Dubai 2,506,613
 Spain, Madrid 2,496,921
 Turkey, İstanbul 2,376,284
  Switzerland, Geneva 2,218,593
 Spain, Malaga 1,814,682
 Germany, Frankfurt 1,678,536
 Spain, Barcelona 1,661,301
 Denmark, Copenhagen 1,656,818
  Switzerland, Zurich 1,642,959
 Germany, Munich 1,546,441
 Italy, Rome Fiumicino 1,530,810
 France, Paris-Charles de Gaulle 1,526,030
 Hong Kong, Chek Lap Kok 1,412,749
 Spain, Alicante 1,302,237
 USA, Los Angeles 1,299,118
 USA, Chicago 1,207,424
 USA, New York Newark 1,197,847
 Spain, Palma de Mallorca 1,189,761
 Canada, Toronto 1,186,783
 Portugal, Faro 1,186,358
 Sweden, Stockholm Arlanda 1,185,848
 Hungary, Budapest 1,145,011
 France, Nice 1,134,396
 Singapore, Changi 1,069,706
 Portugal, Lisbon 1,069,055
 USA, Boston 1,031,320
 India, Delhi 1,003,598

Heathrow Airport is a major hub for flights across the North Atlantic. In 2011, 11% of all north Atlantic flights originated or terminated at Heathrow, more than Paris and Frankfurt combined, and Heathrow is the European terminus for 11 of the 25 busiest north Atlantic routes.

The busiest long-haul route in the world is between London (Heathrow and Gatwick) and New York (JFK and Newark), with a total of 3,898,460 passengers travelling between the two cities in 2011.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beijing to overtake London as world's largest aviation hub. Massive new airport planned
  2. ^ Size of Reporting Airports 2011
  3. ^ a b Domestic Terminal Passenger Traffic 2012(a)
  4. ^ a b EU and Other International Terminal Passenger Traffic 2012
  5. ^ a b c d e Aircraft Movements 2012
  6. ^ "Heathrow third runway plans scrapped by new government". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Alan Travis, home affairs editor (3 May 2012). "Official waiting time figures reveal scale of Heathrow chaos | World news |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  8. ^ Lucy Tobin (2012-04-12). "Record 70 million use Heathrow airport - Business News - Business". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  9. ^ "G20". Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  10. ^ Juliette Jowit (26 January 2012). "Risk of bird strikes would make Thames Estuary UK's 'most dangerous airport' | Environment |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  11. ^ "UK Airport Statistics" (PDF). 26 March 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Aircraft Movements 2001
  13. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2002
  14. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2003
  15. ^ Air Transport Movements(a) 2004
  16. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  17. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  18. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  19. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  20. ^ "Air Transport Movements 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  21. ^ Air Transport Movements 2010
  22. ^ Air Transport Movements 2011
  23. ^ a b c Air Transport Movements 2004-2014